My Nepal Visa on Arrival Nightmare

I had always wanted to visit Nepal, and in particular its capital city, Kathmandu. However, when I landed at Tribhuvan International Airport I did not expect to have endure such frustration in order to obtain my Visa on Arrival.

kathmandulanding

I had taken an evening flight on Air Asia X from Kuala Lumpur and we landed in Kathmandu at around 19.45hrs, after one of the most turbulent and bumpy descents I have ever experienced (the Kathmandu Valley is known for being a little on the turbulent side)! Upon disembarkation, we were then required to fill in a the visa on arrival form in the arrivals area. Incidentally, I really advise against relying on the Visa on Arrival at Tribhuvan Airport. I would more recommend going through the visa in advance process, which for UK nationals can be done through thenepembassy.org.uk/visa.

KTM3

Tribhuvan International Airport is quite a dusty place even at the best of times, but in the evening when there is no light outside, it can look very dimly lit and not exactly the friendliest-looking airport in the world for first time visitors! Nevertheless, following the maddening crowds from the buses, I began filling out the visa on arrival forms. The forms themselves are quite self-explanatory, but you need to make sure you have a passport sized photo for your application. It doesn’t matter if you cannot cut or stick these photos yourself, as the immigration officials will do it for you anyway – however, I soon realised my nightmare was going to occur when there were actually no immigrations officials! Now, Nepal is a fairly lax country anyway, with no real organisation or routine. Things just seem to happen whenever, wherever. Of course, I am not saying all of Nepal is like this, but from my experiences at the airport and during my stay in Kathmandu I certainly noticed a trend!

ktmairport2

So standing in a long queue for around an hour before an immigration official even began dealing with us was not a good way to start my adventure in Nepal. I have never had to wait this long at any airport, anywhere in the world (not even in Laos or Mongolia), so I had begun to get very annoyed by this point. As you can imagine, the lines moved very slowly, and I even saw a few unfortunate soles be sent to the back of the queue because they had either forgotten to fill in something important on the visa on arrival forms, or actually forgotten to pick up the form itself before joining the queue! I started to worry that I may be the next guy to get sent to the back of the queue, so I went through my forms with a toothpick again and again and again. At least I now found a way to pass the time!

KTM2

I was only going to be making a short visit to Kathmandu, so I only applied for the tourist visa of 15 days. There are also visas available for 30 days and 90 days – but this is where it gets confusing! The first official you encounter will merely take your money (£20 for 15 days, £35 for 30 days, and £75 for 90 days), and then he should then direct you to the correct queue behind him, depending on your intended length of stay. However, on my time of visit the immigration official merely pointed half-heartedly behind him as to where I should queue up next. When I asked him to repeat, he blanked me and began talking to the next person in line! So I had to join the queue at which I thought he pointed. As it turned out, I had actually joined the wrong queue (yep, you guessed it!), and when it came to my time to get the passport stamped, I was redirected to the correct line, albeit having to stand at the back of this line. Thankfully, it was not too long at this point.

My Nepali Visa on Arrival (with parts blanked out)
My Nepali Visa on Arrival (with parts blanked out)

Some 120 minutes after landing at Tribhuvan International Airport, I had finally obtained my Nepal Visa on Arrival! As I walked down to the luggage reclaim area, it had been so long since my flight had landed, the luggage from the flight was no longer on the conveyor belts, as other flights had since landed. There was luggage all over the floor. What chaos! Eventually, I got a stroke of luck and managed to walk past my luggage, and then quickly headed out to my hotel pick up driver, who greeted me with exasperated sarcasm: “Oh, finally!”

I figured that my time in Kathmandu still had more troubles ahead…

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19 thoughts on “My Nepal Visa on Arrival Nightmare

  1. “not exactly the friendliest-looking airport in the world for first time visitors”… worst than LCCT? Gladly LCCT is closing down.

    And what a long queue! I remembered my visit to Semarang, Central Java. Only 2 immigration counters opened at the super tiny airport causing a super long queue!

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  2. Hardly a surprise as far as the airport experience is concerned. It’s a farce. A disaster and an embarrassment for us. It has to be the world’s worst airport.

    I really believe the number of incoming tourists would at least double if we were to improve the airport by 50%.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A trust you didn’t have a good time either than, Bikram?! I would really like to see the airport improve, maybe not expand in size, but at least improve the facilities up to normal standards. I don’t know if it’s the world’s worst airport, but it surely has to be one of the worst in Asia that’s for sure. 😦

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  3. Wow, you had to wait for 2 hours in order to get the visa? What a nightmare! I can hardly believe this actually happened! And the unfortunate souls who didn’t fill out their forms correctly and were required to do so! My oh my, this is truly a horrible story.

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  4. Gosh! I’ve never had experience in obtaining visa on arrival, and just by reading your post, I already feel confused and headache. LOL. Now I have to re-consider about my plan to Nepal. Wew!

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      1. I have short period of time for the visit, so I decide to go to Bagan Myanmar first. I mean I want to go mountain trekking in Nepal, and I think it takes time. At least I should reserve a week for Nepal trip. Hey, have you visited Indonesia? Sorry, I have not checked everything in your blog, so I’m just asking this as shortcut. Haha. Because I’m also considering of going there, and if you’ve been to Indonesia, I’d like to hear your experience.

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          1. Ahhh! Sumatra is a new thing for me as currently I’ve been thinking of Bali and Jogja. What I’m worried about is local transportation and language! Yeah, my Indonesian friends keep telling me English is not widely used in Jogja and I might be overcharged here and there because I’ll have no local people to accompany me. What’s your tips for this?
            I like your blog because it’s all about traveling and eating which are my most favorites in my life!

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      2. Hi. I am going to Nepal in Oct and applying visa on arrival. please advise is the photo size use for visa application 2 inch x 2 inch.

        thank you.

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  5. I had that little bit of nightmare on my first trip in 2013, but it was not as bad as your experience! On the following trips I always have my form filled up in advance on the flight (you can download the form online), and at the airport it took less than 30 minutes for the whole process, provided you’re not at the end of the queue. Tip: try to get out of the plane/bus ahead of the crowd so you can be at the front of the queue.

    However, on my trip earlier this year the nightmare was not for the visa (that was a breeze, surprisingly), but at the luggage collection, where there is just one single conveyor belt. Three or four flights arrived in the same hour and it took me 90 minutes to get my bag. I wanted to cry – so tired and frustrated! Airport definitely needs an upgrade.

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  6. Nepal’s airport is just poor in general. I experience some problem or another every time there, but in the end, when I walk outside of the building to see my family waiting for me, it’s all worth it. 🙂

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